Extractive industries


Mining and oil and gas developments  are highly profitable but if managed poorly, cause serious damage to landscapes and communities. Areas surrounding extraction sites suffer from erosion, soil and water contamination, and loss of biodiversity. Pollution coming from waste negatively affects the health of local populations. A large percentage of mining is located in developing countries, where workers often lack proper gear and operate in unsafe working environments; some digging with their bare hands. Moreover, continuous enhaling of poisonous emissions causes lung diseases.

Mining worldwide is growing to keep up with increasing prices and demand. It is predicted that global annual resource extraction will triple by 2050.

Examples of damage caused by extractive industries are endless. Blasting the banks of the gold-bearing Amazon river has caused irreversible damage to trees, birds and animals. Contaminated tailings and discharges from the giant Ok Tedi gold mine in Papua New Guinea have impacted around 50,000 people in 120 nearby villages socially and environmentally. Fish in the river became inedible; the mining dump changed the river bed causing disruptions in water flow.

Canada is planning to send raw bitumen, a tarry oil substance, across the Pacific Ocean to China. Both extraction and processing require tremendous inputs of water and energy, and impact land, water and air. The pipeline will cross 700 lakes and rivers before reaching the coast for shipment across the Pacific Ocean. The risks are unparalleled.


Why should we care?

  • Our addiction to precious metals for electronics and fossil fuels is exhausting soil, polluting water and forcing people to leave their homes.
  • Mining projects in developing countries harm millions of local residents and workers due to lack of safe working conditions and proper health care
  • Pollution from extractive industry waste is destroying plant and animal life around us.
  • Energy efficiency is crucial at this point in our existence – if we wish to continue to enjoy a modern society.


Fast Facts


  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to light a 100-watt lightbulb for nearly a day
  • Cyanide, a highly toxic compound, is also often used to separate gold from sediment and rock; without proper regulations, cyanide spills are frequent, poisoning the surrounding ecosystem and deteriorating local residents’ health.
  • Every ounce of mined gold results in 79 tons of mine waste.
  • Mining creates 96% of arsenic emissions which increase cancer risks for people working in and living around the mining area.
  • As a result of unsafe oil handling, annually, more than 6 million tons of oil enters the ocean waters, killing millions of marine animals and birds.
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